Friday, June 17, 2016

If You are Gay - Jolly Well be Gay

I’ve been fortunate in life. One of the strangest blessings I’ve had, has been to enjoy a very lucky sense of timing. When the tragedy in New Zealand struck my army batch, I was in Singapore waiting to get deployed. When the Admiral Duncan in Soho was blown up, I had the good fortune of visiting the countryside and we only realized something was wrong was when I noticed that the entire Soho region (where I was living) had been cornered off by the police.

I described myself as lucky because I’ve managed to be close enough to events to know and feel what was going on but I’ve never been close enough to getting killed or traumatized. In the case of the Admiral Duncan bombing back in 1999, I only saw the gruesome pictures on the front page of the Times, even though I lived a five minute walk from the street where the Admiral Duncan was on.

I remember the Admiral Duncan because, like the recent shooting in Orlando, this was a crime targeted at the “LGBT” Community. A part from the location and the killing (nail bomb versus shooter), the main difference between the Admiral Duncan incident and the Orlando shooting was the fact that back in those days, ISIS didn’t exist and it wasn’t cool for nut jobs to murder in the name of Islam.

I guess, that last fact made things easier in the Admiral Duncan incident. Politicians had nothing to exploit except grief and shock at this most senseless and barbarous of acts. There was no bogeyman in the shape of militant ISIS supporters for the likes of Donald Trump to exploit. Lawrence Kong and his fellow “men of God” also didn’t have much to say about the killing of the LGBT.

Unfortunately things have changed. Donald Trump has decided that there’s more profit in playing up the worst in an intrinsically decent but frightened people. ISIS declare that they speak for Islam, contrary to the opinion of the billion people who actually follow Islam. So much noise is being made about this and nobody is looking at the real issues.

The first issue is the fact that a mentally unstable person had easy access to military grade hardware and the means to inflict massive casualties.  Yes, despite the horrors of this massacre, America will not change its gun laws. The ever powerful gun lobby continues to pressure politicians from all sides of the aisle. Ads about how guns don’t kill people are being posted all over the internet. Arguments about how this shooting may have been stopped if an ordinary person had the means of shooting the shooter are already being used.

These arguments have been used again and again and again by the National Riffle Association (NRA) and they’ve been proved wrong by every incident of gun violence. Think about it, checks at airports got tighter after September 11, 2011. When a man was caught with a bomb in his shoes, it became almost mandatory for people to take off their shoes before going through an airport scanner. By contrast, America remains unable to stop people who have no business holding military grade hardware getting hold of that hardware despite the numerous shootings.

Something has got to give and it would reflect badly on a nation that has been the engine of the world’s innovations in the last two centuries, if innocent people get gunned down because unstable people had access to fire arms.

Surely someone has to realise that you cannot argue that it is a violation of constitutional rights to insist that someone has to wait 45 days to purchase a handgun but its not a violation of rights to make a woman wait 45 days to have an abortion.

The second issue that needs to be looked at is the issue of acceptance or getting people to accept themselves. Reports that Mr. Omar Mateen, the Orlando shooter was himself a homosexual, reminds me of what a homosexual acquaintance of mine told me after the Admiral Duncan was blown to bits – “Bet you that was done by a queen.”

While, I don’t believe Islam was responsible for the Orlando shooting, I do believe that Islam, like the other Abrahamic faiths, needs to find a way of adapting to the acceptance of the LGBT community. Like it or not, homosexuals and lesbians are a part of society and while I am hardly a champion of gay rights, I do believe in the words of Singapore’s most famous homophobe, Professor Thio Li-Ann, ”Homosexuals are only titled to the rights that everyone else has,” – which should mean that they’re entitled to live in peace like the rest of us.

I’m not about to join “Pink Dot” and take part in Gay pride events and I don’t think I’d be overjoyed if any of my kids announced to me that they were gay.

But while I may not be a champion of gay rights, I do believe that gay people should be gay and not be taught that they are dirty or evil. If a person is gay, they should be encouraged to accept that as who they are and not to think of it as evil. Science has shown that you cannot turn gay people straight (though Fleshball claimed she could) and like it or not, homosexuality and same sex unions are part of human history.
I remember discussing the issues of gay rights with a gay friend. I mentioned that from what I’ve seen, the biggest homophobes are usually the biggest homosexuals. He agreed. He told me that he used think it was a sport to beat up gay people until he realized that he himself is gay.

I believe Omar Mateen was brought up to be a good Muslim, who believed that being gay was a sin. Unfortunately, he himself was gay and that enraged him to point of being unstable. I don’t believe that Omar Mateen is the first homosexual who got enraged to the point of being a danger to himself and to others. Unfortunately, nobody has really done a study on it because everyone believes that you can avoid the topic of a person’s sexuality by ignoring it.

Yes, there should be certain boundaries in society for people to live in peace. However, we should generally encourage people to be who they are and not to think of who they are as something evil and to be destroyed.

I think of Girija Pande, the Chairman of Apex-Avalon, who once said that he believed that one of the greatest strengths of the Chinese people was the ability to live and let live. He argued that this helped Singapore achieve the racial and religious harmony. It’s something we should think about whenever we think of the LGBT community around the world.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Views on the Champ and the Troll

I've been lucky that the late boxing legend, Mohammad Ali died around the same time that Alice Fong, Singapore's most famous online celebrity (the woman who got caught dressing down a deaf mute at a food court - for more on Alice's moment of fame -click here Both characters happened to be perfect examples of one of my favourite topics - heart or the lack of it.

Let's start with the late boxing legend. Mohammad Ali was without the "Greatest" boxer to walk the planet. He didn't have the best boxing record (The only heavy weight to ever retire undefeated in Rocky Marciano) nor was he the hardest hitter in the game (Both Mike Tyson and George Foreman come to mind in terms of having raw punching power). He did, however, have plenty of "heart" and this was the very thing that made him transcend the sport. For many of us around the world, boxing was synonymous with Mohammad Ali.

Ali wasn't afraid of challenges. He took on opponents who were bigger and stronger (think of George Foreman) and he was willing to give it his all. His two key fights that we all remember are "The Thrilla in Manila" (Against Joe Louise) and "The Rumble in the Jungle" (against a very young, very fit and very hard hitting George Foreman) because he had opponents who were willing to go the distance with him. In the case of the Thrilla in Manila, we had two men who were giving everything they had. In the Rumble in the Jungle, it was a case of Mohammad Ali taking punishment and pain from a far more powerful hitter and then winning against all odds.

The man had courage and passion and we loved him for it. Despite the odds, he refused to be cowed and for the most part he got away with it. In his final fight against Larry Holmes, it was clear that Ali was outclassed. The body had simply taken too much punishment over the years to carry on. However, Ali refused to go down and take an easy count. His pride and courage remained even when his body was no longer able to carry on. This refusal to give up affected his opponent too. Towards the end, you could see Larry Holmes crying with every punch he threw and he felt no elation in his victory. Somehow, Ali could still win when he wasn't winning.

We, the adoring public loved Ali because he had a heart to stand up and take the punches that life threw at him. He simply wasn't afraid to live.

At the opposite extreme, we have Alice Fong, who flies of the handle over small issues and can't see what the fuss is about.

I don't think she's wrong to be upset over the mistake that was made and in her defense, she would probably have been foul to the coffee shop staff even if he wasn't a deaf mute. Speaking as someone who does wait tables, I accept that service staff do make mistakes and customers have a right to address it.

However, while addressing an issue is acceptable and even commendable, it is unacceptable to fly off and hurl verbal abuse at people, particularly those who happen to be in a vulnerable position.

You find that people who do that, often have self-esteem issues and are secretly terrified of the world, hence in an effort to prove their superiority, end up going over the top with people whom they perceive as being lower than them.

While the actions of Ms. Fong are bad in themselves, what's worse is that she seems unable to see why everyone is getting upset. She's "appologised" but somehow, somewhere in there still needs to try and justify herself and her actions (Oh, the guy wasn't wearing a tag to show that he was deaf - erm are you saying that you wouldn't have gone of on him if you knew he was?). She's even gone as far as to threaten to sue people who write nasty things about her for that incident.

We revile Ms. Alice Fong for the very same reason why we adored Mohammad Ali - she lacks the heart that Mr. Ali had in abundance. While the champ fought and beat people stronger than him, Ms. Fong thinks its OK to fight with people smaller than herself.

Seriously, we need more Mohammad Ali's and less Alice Fongs. How do create a system where those with courage can succeed and those without get pushed into the garbage bags of history?